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Strong bones are a female athlete's best friend. A solid foundation spells lower risk of injury and improved health as we age. As a weight-bearing exercise, running is an excellent way to maintain sturdy bones. But in spite of running's reputation as a proven bone-builder, women runners often experience low bone density, which can result in stress fractures and osteoporosis.
Why the paradox? The answer is hiding in your fridge.
Proper nutrition is the key to skeletal health, and many women runners fail to adequately fuel. To keep your structure sturdy, it's crucial to maintain a healthy diet, chock-full of vitamins and minerals. Follow these simple guidelines to keep brittle bones at bay.
Take (All) Your Vitamins
Calcium and vitamin D are well-known heavy hitters for bone maintenance. While it's important to focus on these two nutrients, we often disregard other essentials that work together to keep bones strong. Don't overlook these unsung heroes:
MAGNESIUM: The second most abundant mineral in your skeleton after calcium, magnesium helps strengthen the bony matrix.
VITAMIN K: This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for bone health. The intestinal tract normally creates adequate vitamin K, but antibiotics and digestive diseases can impair K levels, making dietary sources of the nutrient necessary.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: A nutrient that's scarce in the standard American diet, studies have shown that higher levels of omega-3 fats in the blood correlate with greater bone mineral density.
Focus on Food
The best way to absorb proper nutrients is through whole foods. Write these items on your grocery list to keep your hips, knees and ankles happy.
- DAIRY PRODUCTS: The long-lauded go-to, dairy is still considered one of the best sources of the bone-building trifecta: calcium, vitamin D and magnesium.
Eat this: Mix together fresh berries and organic yogurt for a perfect post-run snack.
- LEAFY GREENS: Greens are an excellent source of vitamin K, magnesium and calcium. Shake up your romaine routine by including kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard and Brussels sprouts in your diet.
Drink this: Sneak leafy greens into smoothies. Try adding baby spinach to your next healthy shake. You'll get all the goodness with none of the grassy taste!
- NUTS and SEEDS: All excellent sources of magnesium, walnuts, flax, hemp and pumpkin seeds contain the omega-3 fatty acid ALA.
Eat this: Sprinkle chopped walnuts or seeds on your oatmeal for a satisfying crunch.